(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 390: Bringing Joy with Transit and TOD
Jacob Vallo (2m 0s):
I’m happy to introduce Collie Greenwood. Collie is deputy general manager of operations at Marta and Collie. We know you have vast experience in transit operations. I’m eager to hear today more about how you structured the bus system redesign in Atlanta.
Collie Greenwood (2m 17s):
Well, thank you, Jacob, and I’m happy to be here. And in turn, I would like to introduce you, Jacob Vallo, who is the senior director of transit oriented development here at Marta, as well as in charge of real estate and Art in Transit and Jacob, I think I it’s fair to say that we want to hear about transit oriented development and maybe especially how it’s changing to address displacement.
Jacob Vallo (2m 41s):
That’s great. Thanks Collie. Having to be with you. I am on rail solutions, national steering committee, and we are very grateful for your time today. Revolution is all about innovating and sharing ways to get better outcomes for communities from the projects that we do. I want to ask before we get too deep into this, what is the big goal that motivates you in the work that you’re doing? What fires you up about what’s possible at this very moment?
Collie Greenwood (3m 7s):
Oh, well, you, you, when you think about first thing in the morning and, and what is it that we do and why is it important? What strikes me, and this is maybe somewhat removed from the, the nuts and bolts of what we’re doing, but it’s this image of transit and what is possible. And frankly, in some cases I think is missing, it’s this shared notion to me that our transit vehicles are carrying everyone, right? It’s this vibrant microcosm of this happy collective, this representation of this fantastic city, and that as a writer, you get the sense that you’re joined by others who choose to ride Marta for all its benefits.
Collie Greenwood (3m 49s):
They’re proud to be a part of this pleasant atmosphere that’s created by the managed environment, which is something I gathered. We will talk about a little bit more later, but it’s also, you know, it’s created by the managed environment as well as the individual contributions of everyone on the vehicle or in the station. So I, I want to create that transit experience that grows ridership. That means delighting our existing customers with all those basics that are important for transit. And I know that might sound rather general at first, but those listening carefully will key into the transformative efforts required to achieve this. So the basics, a consistent experience on the network, the safe, bright, and devoid of clutter, it’s accessible by design to the system, as well as on the system, it’s also safe and it’s reliable and that the whole metrics of performance, it all kind of flows into this desire to create something that is unforgettably important to this city.
Jacob Vallo (4m 48s):
I want to pick up on one of the things that you said, which is how many people are involved in and get touched by the transit system. And, and I think that what’s really of the moment is the fact that many of us have had a lot of experiences through COVID-19. And I think it’s really impressed upon society in general, just how important it is to be people focused in our work. And, and I’ve seen you do it on the transit side, and we’re trying to do it on the transit oriented development side, that it’s not so much about the sticks and bricks. It’s more about the people and how you create, you know, emotions and feelings and joy, joyful experiences for, for people in their, in their lives. And right now, Callie and I are serving under Jeff Parker, our CEO, and he often likes to talk about what we’re doing in the form of lines and dots, where lines are the transit component, and the dots are, is the community development component.
Jacob Vallo (5m 43s):
And I’m so excited to unpack this conversation with you, Collie, with you covering the lines and me covering the dots. But, but recognizing that the common denominator is people and that all of this work is, you know, inextricably linked. So let’s turn a little bit to more specifics around the transit system. And if we could talk a little bit about the bus system redesign project, could you describe the steps you took to make sure the bus system redesign project started off with a deep understanding about Atlanta and its history,
Collie Greenwood (6m 19s):
Even before I get to that, when you talk about the people, you’re absolutely right. So I’m going to go with pre COVID statistics, but, but we’re roughly about 400,000 daily riders on Marta. So during the weekday. So when you think about the opportunity to affect someone’s life and someone’s quality of life, there are 400,000 opportunities every day for us to a hundred thousand reasons for us to make this, make this work. And so the bus network redesign, and I’m going to say about 50% of those writers are bus riders. So this bus network redesign comes at a good time and comes for a good purpose.
Collie Greenwood (6m 59s):
And when I say a good time, clearly the transit industry and the country and the world are thinking about how to come back from the pandemic COVID-19. And, and so that the time for something that is an earnest look at how we, we serve the public, the timing couldn’t be better, quite frankly. And as I said, 400,000 ridership, that there’s absolutely a call for this. It’s not just going to affect just a few people. It’s going to affect the way the city runs and operates for years to come. So we thought about that and we thought, how are we going to structure this cross network redesign in a manner that really speaks to people that have been in Atlanta for a very long time and speaks to people that are thinking about coming to Atlanta and those that are just here for the moment.
Collie Greenwood (7m 51s):
And we thought about let’s, first of all, let’s collect the inputs, right? Let’s, let’s get the opinions, the anecdotes, the data, and the desires of those that are using the system, as well as those that are planning the system and operating the system. Those that are, you know, elected officials, the board members, the board of directors, no shortage of input, not only from the city of Atlanta, but the other areas that we represent, right? So that the counties, the, and, and Fulton and Clayton, there, there’s all kinds of input that was available to, to Marta. And then from there, we decided we were going to design the bookends of available options so that we can have a conversation about what it is that our stakeholders, our customers want most, I think like most transit agencies were faced with the reality that we have a finite amount of resource in terms of funding and equipment.
Collie Greenwood (8m 54s):
And yet the possible conversations about what’s important to our ridership are infinite. So w we’re going with two major concepts, we’re designing a coverage concept and we’re designing a ridership concept, both with equally impressive reasons for pursuing them. I wanted to address, you know, one of the questions that you asked me is, is, is about how do you start off a project like that with a deep understanding about Atlanta and its history and, and firstly, in and critically, perhaps ironically, I had to acknowledge it. I myself was lacking in that deep understanding of Atlanta and its history.
Collie Greenwood (9m 34s):
I arrived in the USA in, in July of 2019. So there’s not a lot of depth of history with the city and the product. And quite frankly, not a lot of pre COVID exposure to the city, but that outsider’s perspective was actually very useful to me in identifying the needs for the insiders and my desire to apply their teachings to this body of work. And so that includes the physical historical racial fiscal and political landscape that we’re working in. I was able to tap into energies and information from the city of Atlanta, the cab Clayton and Fulton surrounding counties, the operations personnel and planning staff, as well as customers, our riders advisory council, the martyr accessibility committee, the transformation Alliance, and the partnership for Southern equity, both are instrumental in setting the tone and establishing the challenge for all stakeholders at the onset of this exercise and throughout the challenge of really facing a landscape built on a racist framework and committing to an anti-racist results.
Collie Greenwood (10m 41s):
So that’s how we started. But the best part of this process is that it’s designed to continue gaining insight, gaining feedback, along the way as we shape the two divergent network concepts and engage with the public and the stakeholders in defining and enhancing their selected concept.
Jacob Vallo (10m 57s):
Yeah, I, I think the timing of your work that you mentioned earlier is so significant because, you know, I think that the intentionality, particularly in a city like a plan with, with, you know, the civil rights movement and the black lives matter movement taking place, I think in focusing on the people and maybe what hasn’t been done in the past, but can be corrected going forward in this work, I think is really important. And I really applaud you and have enjoyed working with you because you brought a level of humility to this conversation, recognizing that you, you, you know, weren’t knowledgeable of the city and its history, but were open to learning, I think was, was it’s really awesome.
Jacob Vallo (11m 43s):
And, and, and then translating that into your work. And you know, where I saw that first hand, we were working on project downtown and you drafted something called the principles. I hadn’t seen that much in, in the transit world, but I think it’s a, it’s a fantastic way of thinking where you began to challenge the pre-existing assumptions and really broke the conversation down to the core elements that are important for us to work toward in terms of outcomes for, for the communities in which we serve. So if we could just talk a little bit more on this topic, why would another agency do this? Why is it important to approach a bus network redesign or corridor projects with this level of humility and first principles thinking
Collie Greenwood (12m 30s):
That’s a, that’s a great question. I think I’m going to draw on on the fact that there are agencies like, you know, Houston and Sacramento, Miami Richmond, Columbus, all engaged or having engaged in a bus network redesign. And that’s just to name a few. And I’ll presumably for, for different reasons, in some cases, Jacob, I think it’s population growth or population shrinkage, and the reality of having to do more with less, that whole issue of tight budgets and limited resources, you know, it’s sprawl small of the existing population or of the increased population or changing patterns to, and from previous destinations or changing attitudes, right?
Collie Greenwood (13m 13s):
I mean, our ridership profile changes. That’s, that’s called progress. That’s called time and their attitudes towards distance of travel and, and length of travel time changes. And so I think to remain relevant, most agencies are going to have to refresh and, and it starts with an earnest look at objective data. It starts with rethinking, you know, stop let’s stop chasing the goals that are for parents. We’re chasing, let’s stop for a minute and recognize that our customers are different and really break it down to first principles of, of what they want and what we want in pursuit of supporting them.
Collie Greenwood (13m 55s):
And I thought, I think that’s the driving force behind it. You know, not to mention all the, all the effort mentioned reasons for change, but you really want to remain relevant. And if you just keep redoing what was already done, then you’re, you’re moving further and further away from, from relevance.
Jacob Vallo (14m 13s):
Yeah. And you don’t have that evolution process to get better for your customers.
Collie Greenwood (14m 18s):
Absolutely. I really want to emphasize the concept of freedom and access to transportation and what that means to people that rely on transit. And we take, for example, I like the example that our, our consultant use as Gerald Walker and associates, they, they tend to talk about access in snippets. So if you, if you take, for example, lack of a better term, a blob that kind of in circles, someone’s home and you give it a 40 minutes from the home to any area inside of this. That means it takes them 40 minutes or less to get to work, to get to school, to get to the places that they like to socialize and places of worship.
Collie Greenwood (15m 2s):
And that kind of freedom. If, if the transit system and the transit network is sufficient enough to get them there within 40 minutes, that’s a quality of life statement. The transit system is ineffective that not that blob that would normally be served within 40 minutes may take 60 minutes, may take 80 minutes, 90 minutes may make them relatively inaccessible. And that, that loss of freedom is what we have to contend with. We have to make sure that when we design our networks, that we’re taking that into account, I liked the analogy of someone who’s got access to a really fast sports car compared to the person that lives right next to them. That takes the bus.
Collie Greenwood (15m 42s):
But if the person that takes the bus can walk out of their home, get on the bus, get the transfer and get to point from point a to point B within 10 minutes. And the person with the really fast sports car has to wait for that garage gate to open. And it only opens once every 30 minutes, it starts to change between, you know, what we think of in terms of fast access to transit and what, what really it is efficient access to transit. So we’re keeping these concepts very alive as we go through the bus network redesign we’re, we’re talking not just about the corridor itself, but how it intersects with other other services. And I’m really excited to see what that, what that brings to the city of Atlanta when all those concepts are fleshed out.
Jacob Vallo (16m 24s):
Yeah. I love that. I think that, I mean, having freedom is at your core mission of the work that you’re doing is, you know, it’s hard to have something greater than that to drive your work. So I, I, I, I love that,
Collie Greenwood (16m 38s):
You know, Jacob, I mean, it comes to me at this point, I’m thinking, you know, that’s enough about me? What about you? And you know, all the work that you seen me doing, but quite frankly, I think it’s fantastic. The work you’ve been doing in the Tod space. And I’m just wondering if it’s something that you would want to kind of share a little bit with, with everyone that’s listening and, and give us a, a greater sense of what you’re up to and, and what gets you out of, out of bed energized for the work that you do.
Jacob Vallo (17m 10s):
Sure. And I appreciate that Collie and, you know, going back to the initial comments, it’s really just about serving and, you know, seeing smiles on people’s faces. I mean, that’s really what gets me up in the morning and, and I’m blessed to be here at Marta with amazing colleagues and, you know, our team in transit oriented development. When I first arrived at Marta two and a half years ago, I sat down and, and we approached our work in a very mission oriented manner in the same way that, you know, our transit colleagues do. And in that we want to better the communities in which we serve. And if we can do that through providing food and providing affordable housing, senior care on land that we own, then we’re, you know, we’re doing our part. So, you know, we have been active in, in all aspects.
Jacob Vallo (17m 55s):
I just mentioned. And, you know, we’re blessed as an agency to, to have a fairly robust land and air rights portfolio in which to lean into these community development aspects and the Tod program, and Maura was started, at least the first Tod was done in 1985, but the program itself did not actually get formed and staffed until 2013. And since then, we’ve learned a lot. We delivered about 11 projects up to, up to that point. And we’re currently working on 18 projects. We have 200 construction. We have several in procurement being negotiated with developers and many in planning, we’ve taken a pretty significant interest in affordable housing because that’s where we think our work could, could have the, the biggest impact.
Jacob Vallo (18m 41s):
And to that end, we recognize that you know, of the prior transit oriented development work that had been done by the agency, we had not done any new investment or, or attracted developers to our south or west lines, which are predominantly black communities. And so we pivoted about a year and a half ago. And at that time, the federal opportunity zone program was put into place. And then we have seven stations that are in federal opportunity zones and, and went to the board and received approval to do Tod RFPs and inherit a for the capital markets and the development community, you know, for the most part, just ignored that part of our region.
Jacob Vallo (19m 22s):
And so we’re excited and to really push the work in those communities, but do it at a pace that, that the communities really want us to do. And, and going back to the people first approach and in the equity conversation, you know, when you start to talk about bringing in new investment into communities that have been under invested for a long time, there’s a lot of fear. There’s a, there’s a trust gap. And so, you know, we took it upon ourselves to do a fair amount of community engagement on the outset with elected officials, but also community members to really figure out like, what do you really need or want, and begin to design our RFPs around, around that feedback.
Jacob Vallo (20m 5s):
And so the rest of the, the process oriented work that we go through through procurement and negotiations, and that’s all very important, but if you can’t get the ingredients right on the front end and to be impactful for the communities we serve, it’s just not worth getting up in the morning. But, but yeah, that’s, what’s getting me excited. You know, the, the displacement conversation was certainly something that came out of those, those community engagement listening sessions, and because of the nature of Tod bringing a new investment, there’s a lot of fear about property taxes, increasing property values, increasing property taxes is increasing and, and displacement occurring. And so when we looked at structuring our affordable housing guidelines for these particular Tod RFPs, we focused on delivering at the affordability level that was for the community.
Jacob Vallo (20m 57s):
And what I mean by that is that we set targets that were tied to the zip code area, median area, median income, not the overall regional median income. And that was really important for the community that we offered that in these particular communities, the deep level for housing, we also increased from 20% to 30%, the amount of affordable units that were requiring the delivered by the developer and these particular projects. So not only did we increase the number of units, but we’ve also increased the affordability, but the flip side of that is two things. One is it creates headwinds with respect to capitalizing the projects. So we knew we had something to work on there.
Jacob Vallo (21m 38s):
And then we also knew that, that it would take a long time to deliver these affordable units. And in many cases, these transit-oriented developments take 5, 7, 10 years to actually, you know, get through the entire process and open up. So we’ve focused our work on trying to solve both, both the capital issue as well as to be impactful in the short run with respect to affordable housing in our region, before delivering the Tod RFPs to the marketplace,
Collie Greenwood (22m 9s):
What kind of financial partners are involved in this kind of adventure and how you working with housing departments?
Jacob Vallo (22m 16s):
Sure. So, you know, on with respect to displacement and wanting to do something in the housing space sooner, rather than later, we felt it was incumbent to try to protect and preserve those existing housing units, portable housing units that were around our stations. So we began calling various institutions in New York and really sharing with them that, you know, how important our work was to the community, but where we really needed help was to figure out ways to bring capital to the table, to preserve the units around the station. And we were very fortunate and blessed that Morgan Stanley’s community development finance group heard us loud and clear and shared with us a program that they’ve been running for our operating with national equity fund, which is a subsidiary across the country, but not in Atlanta.
Jacob Vallo (23m 11s):
So we worked with them over a period of months to set up a greater Atlanta Tod affordable housing preservation fund, whereby Morgan Stanley provided a hundred million dollars of the commitment to be managed by national equity fund to preserve those housing units around our stations. And so, you know, we’re really excited that that initiative was, was set up. It’s currently operating there. They’re underwriting transactions now, and our hope is the first closing will occur in the next 60 days. But what, what that does is prior to our Tod is being delivered. We’re trying to bring some semblance of stability to the communities.
Jacob Vallo (23m 52s):
And again, proud that Morgan Stanley thought the same way we did about trying to try to make that happen. And so that was really the short term, you know, how do we do something short term solution? And then with respect to, you know, capitalizing deeply discounted projects, we again reached out to capital partners in New York potential capital partners in New York. And, and we’re blessed to have Goldman Sachs is urban investment fund. Step forward. That group is run by Margaret Anna do, who is amazing. And she, on our first call asked, what can we do to help? And I just thought that approach was, was really cool.
Jacob Vallo (24m 33s):
And, and so we shared with, with, with her and her team, the challenges that we had to capitalize some of these deeper affordable units. So, you know, fast forward several weeks ago, we set up an initiative with, with Goldman Sachs asset management of which Goldman Sachs urban investment fund is a part of. And I’ll explain the distinction, why it’s important that the S the overall asset management group got involved, but they made a commitment of a hundred million dollars to vertical financing. And the benefit of what they bring is a lot of flexibility. So it really acts as gap financing. It’s mission-oriented capital, and they’re very creative minds that sit in that group to figure out the ways to move projects forward.
Jacob Vallo (25m 16s):
So we’re, again, very excited about having that initiative set up. The other component to the Goldman Sachs venture or initiative is that they had a strong interest, as well as we did to advance the minority participation in TLDs where we haven’t seen a lot of innovation in the, in the minority sponsorship space, at least in the, in the R world in our region. And we wanted to do something important. And so to sort of Goldman and Goldman had a 1 million black woman initiative where they committed a billion dollars per year for 10, 10 years, to support black entrepreneurs, black women entrepreneurs, and community developers.
Jacob Vallo (26m 0s):
And they asked if that was something we were interested in having be part of this initiative with Marta, and we welcomed it with open arms. And so the criteria of the capital to be deployed in the Atlanta region is first to go to black women developers, and secondly, it’s to black and brown developers. And so we really thought that was an important component of the initiative. The other important thing that we did is we played partly housing advocate, as well as sort of direct beneficiary of the capital in so far as we set a criteria that projects that were eligible for the funding could be within a mile of the transit station with the logic being that more density, the better for us, if there were projects that were shovel-ready and were better projects that had a lot of density and had great sponsorship, as I discussed earlier, they should have the opportunity to, to access this capital.
Jacob Vallo (27m 1s):
So we did open it up to allow for not just market, to participate for developers that are going to develop on Marta land, but also for other developers around around our stations. And we think that bringing this capital into the Atlanta ecosystem is really important. The housing authorities are doing the best they can, the cities are doing the best they can with subsidies and in other programs, but we just wanted to do our part and certainly had the ability to access resources like that. So, you know, we do have to your question about housing departments, Colleen, we, we do have a partnership with the Dekab county housing authority, and this is the first of its kind in our region where the transit agency has partnered with a housing authority.
Jacob Vallo (27m 45s):
We know that other of our peers around the country do this quite often, but this was new for us. So the first project, which hopefully brace ground at the end of the year or January, February of next year will be 208 senior affordable units. And the housing authority is actually moving their headquarters into a small commercial building that would also would also be onsite. But we hope that this becomes the blueprint for more work that we do not only with the cab, but also with the Atlanta housing authority and some of the other jurisdictions in which we serve.
Collie Greenwood (28m 16s):
That’s a lot of work, Jacob. And I think that’s, that’s absolutely commendable. I really liked the idea of, of you’re being intentional about inequity, whether it’s poverty or racial inequity, and, and you’re, you know, the intentionality with which you go about doing your work. I think what that’s often one of the most difficult aspects of, of today’s efforts at racial equity and justice fighting the notion that, you know, we should just move forward and, and, and not consider ourselves with the past and that nothing’s wrong. And, and we just have to be fair now. And I think it’s just really important that we recognize that today’s inequity is, is not just evidence of yesterday’s problem, but it’s the source of tomorrow’s embarrassment.
Collie Greenwood (29m 1s):
If we don’t do anything about it. So these days you, you do have to strive for equity, but you know, you also carefully have to convey to everyone that systemic inequity and its racist underpinnings are still real, and it’s not a condemnation of an individuals. It’s more of a focus on the landscape that we happen to exist in, and then a commitment to move forward on, on each of these, each of these aspects. So my, my commendation to you for that,
Jacob Vallo (29m 27s):
I appreciate that. And I’ll go back to our CEO’s lines and dots and carrying that equity theme into the work that we’re doing on, you know, new corridor and transit projects. You know, as we think about delivering transit and new corridors and the potential for displacement, and this is why I think Jeff and, and others and yourself, Callie and myself are so focused on this is that these two things are inextricably linked and you can’t deliver transit without thinking about displacement and what it’s going to do to the people and having the community development arm, you know, in lockstep with the transit planning design is, is really critical so that you have the ingredients of an equitable transit development project.
Jacob Vallo (30m 15s):
And so I think it’s a really exciting time as you know, to be here at Marta, you know, to do things, doing the things that we’re doing and look forward to doing more. And I’ll just close with this, that we took a, high-level look at the range of work that’s going on within Marta, but also a little bit in Atlanta. So maybe we’ll dip into the crystal ball for a bit, you know, what, what’s your vision for the next five to 10 years from now, you know, for, for Marta and, and, you know, your, your area of work
Collie Greenwood (30m 50s):
Seized on something you said a moment ago. And I just want to want it to follow up on that. And, you know, we were talking earlier about, about the importance of remaining relevant to your audience when it comes to equity, and when it comes to, to city building and, and building the kind of environment that we want for everyone, you know, our four parents would think about access to food, clothing, and shelter, and that’s, you know, that’s kind of the battle cry that of years gone by, and all those things are still important, but we also have to recognize that needs are, are changing and growing and food clothes, shelter, as well as education, energy technology and transportation are, are now to be considered things that we, we really have to strive for as basic needs basic needs for everyone.
Collie Greenwood (31m 38s):
So, you know, with that in mind, I, I do, I do tend to think about the next, the next few years, and I think it’s important for Marta to keep on the track that it’s on. I think that we have to, we have to recognize that this, the shared appreciation for transit as part of our civic infrastructure is real. We have to, it can’t just be the, the opinion of those of us that are in transit, but for those, those that we’re hoping to entice to use transit, I look at things like the five-point station transformation and, and what that’s going to bring to Atlanta. You know, this bright, open, accessible, and modern aesthetic.
Collie Greenwood (32m 18s):
I think about the vehicles involved in the next five or 10 years. So at five points, for example, below you’ll have the, the CQ 400, our brand new open game. We train it’ll be technologically superior, it’ll be customer centric in terms of a drive quality and information and systems. And then above we’ll have a mission, three vehicles we’ll have BRT and, and we’ll have even the employees, multipurpose proactive customer service ambassadors, actively linking customers to the service that we’re probably providing. It’s my hope that in the next five or 10 years, you won’t recognize your old place, that, that new riders won’t believe that there was a time when pride and ridership were low, and that transit is actually valued as a social force and a beacon of a community that it serves.
Collie Greenwood (33m 4s):
And those, those sound, you know, let the kind of dream statements you would make for five or 10 years out. But when you think about what’s involved in doing that, we’re busily about making that happen with the projects that we’ve been talking about, and you may even be able to talk about, talk more about projects like Campbellton road and, and how important that is and how that’s building towards this, this dream of ours that five, 10 years from now, we will have this network of service and this statement of value that we have for our customers that one might argue is not, not here in, in enough volume today.
Jacob Vallo (33m 46s):
No, I agree. And, you know, I think the Campbellton road project you mentioned is, is an interesting project. And so far as you know, it is one of our busiest, as you know, I have to tell you this, our busiest bus routes, and, but, you know, and it goes through predominantly African-American neighborhoods. And for the most part, those, those neighborhoods along the corridor had been under invested for, you know, decades. And, and so, you know, as the, as the planning process is underway for that corridor for the transit component, and this is what I, you know, I kind of, I see the future and it’s happening now at Marta where Tod is at the table, and we’re talking about the best way to integrate various sort of elements of Tod and into the station area, planning into the, you know, where the siding of the stations so that it can create the best opportunity to attract future capital and, and, and developers into the region.
Jacob Vallo (34m 48s):
But, but even more so if I had my crystal ball, I would love to have the opportunity to when the transits delivered to actually deliver the Tod at the same time. And that it’s been something that, you know, is at least in our region, there’s quite a bit of a time gap. And we do have multiple sites throughout the system that have been surface parking lots for a very long time. So the transit was delivered, but the balance of the economic development or the community development or housing has taken a long time and it’s in most part of capital markets problem. And, and we’re trying to figure out ways to solve that so we can deliver density at the time that the transit is delivered.
Jacob Vallo (35m 32s):
And I think that’s what quarters like Campbellton really deserve as for us to work really hard, to deliver a comprehensive transit project that includes both the lines and the dots. So, you know, to execute the vision, what do you think is the most, or the most crucial, crucial part of making that happen? And maybe it’s one thing, maybe it’s many things, but just love to hear thoughts on that.
Collie Greenwood (35m 55s):
I think it is many things. I think it starts with a recognition that, you know, th whenever we talk about transit expansion from a corridor perspective, people often jump to rail, right, because that’s, that’s the high profile high capacity answer, but quite frankly, bus is just so incredibly important in serving the future of this city. I think people have to recognize that heavy rail by itself, without the bus network in today’s Marta would only reach about 8% of the households in our service area. And maybe just under 20% of the jobs. And by contrast bus alone is reaching 50% of the households about 50 to 55% of the jobs in our service area.
Collie Greenwood (36m 42s):
So it just in terms of when we talk about access and, and, you know, relevance and usability, I think our future has to include bus. And it really has to bus has to be a part of the conversation. Whenever people are talking about expansion, and there’s a tendency, I think, especially with the general public, the talk to talk about rail, even, even in terms of the, you know, we talked earlier about making sure that we have a system that responsibly addresses the issue of poverty. So again, heavy rail is less than 10% in terms of reaching people in poverty. Whereas bus is over 60% responsible for reaching people that are living in poverty today.
Collie Greenwood (37m 23s):
So I think whatever we do next has to maintain this, this emphasis on the importance of developing, whether it’s BRT, local best networks, or just, you know, just the bus network redesign and other projects like that. We, we really do have to support the support that I think, I think also the, the, the key things for the next era, Jacob would be things like taking care of business today. I mean, today transit has to get our workforce back. I think everyone listening understands the urgency of that, not just in the transit industry, but in other industries across America, we need to commit funding that supports transit as that critical infrastructure.
Collie Greenwood (38m 4s):
We talk about it the way we talk about water and lights, we should be able to reach for it and voila it’s there, but there is a price to be paid to making sure that that reliability is always there. And I think, you know, we just have to present the cleanest, safest, most efficient system that we can, we have to add value for our ridership as it returns, you know, with bold and definitive plans and exciting competitive vehicles and stations and lines and dots that as, as you say, I think that the next 12 months are key in all of that in making sure that we set the stage for the return to the, what is normal for a transit rider and what they can expect,
Jacob Vallo (38m 43s):
Listening to what you’re saying. I think that it would sort of gather from it as it’s not a silver bullet solution, the path to success or a successful outcomes is made up of many small wins and a small movements, et cetera. And in many ways I think about not to be too geeky on this, but that when you think about quantum theory and how that’s about really small things, relativistic physics is about really large things. But in essence, really large things are made up of really small things. And in many ways, you know, having all of those things work together towards a consistent vision is really the magic, I think, in all of this.
Jacob Vallo (39m 27s):
And so I appreciate your leadership and, you know, our CEO and chief of staff and others to make sure we all come together in that common goal. And, you know, if you were speaking to some colleagues in other cities, what would you most want to share a tip or something that really works for you and in your, in your work? And if you could just share that with the audience,
Collie Greenwood (39m 50s):
To be honest with you, Jacob, I think what comes to my mind is, is the first thing I’d want to say to my colleagues is, is thank you. It’s been a tough year, tough couple of years, quite frankly. And I think they would all say the same we’d we would want to thank each other for the collaboration. We just couldn’t do this without each other, the American public transit association agencies, just, just my own personal network of colleagues and consultants, just to engage in this ongoing reciprocal, if you will discussion that really, that really works for each of us. I think I’d also acknowledge that the folks in the transit industry, I mean, they are, they’re all every bit as concerned and capable as we are.
Collie Greenwood (40m 31s):
What I’ve learned after 33 years in this space is that the public transit industry is unique in that, you know, we all want to see each other improve and that there’s some very talented people willing to collaborate and work together to address each other’s challenges. We’re not, we’re not competing against each other, a success on the east coast, you know, a ridership gain or, or a disappointment on the west coast is shared by all of us. And then finally, I guess I’d say if they’re listening, invest time in the conversations that matter most to your specific circumstance. So if it’s funding, if it’s public engagement or getting the basics, right, our existing customers have to understand that we’re not just building the future for someone else that’s coming along.
Collie Greenwood (41m 14s):
We are, we’re, we’re focused on them and we’re building it for them based on their current experiences. And we intend to impress them along the way. I think that would be my message.
Jacob Vallo (41m 24s):
That’s fantastic. And I think coming out well, we’re still in the pandemic, but I think what a lot of us have learned as we’ve all been humbled by, by this. And, and I think to some degree, it’s a good thing. And in that coming into our work, I think is really important. And again, focuses us on the people first, but also the bare necessities, if you will. And, and I think transit into your earlier point, the transit industry in general, and I’ve only been involved for about two and a half years, but was in the private sector prior to that, it is a unbelievably collegial environment where everyone is willing to share and, and help one another to uplift the entire entire industry.
Jacob Vallo (42m 11s):
And I think, again, for someone who’s new here, it’s, it’s, it’s refreshing, it’s refreshing to serve along with everyone. And as we go forward and get through the pandemic, you know, I, I do think that it, you know, opportunities that we have through vehicles, like revolution to share knowledge and learn from one another become even more important. And I think it’s been exciting to continue to be part of our evolution through the pandemic and stay connected, although although virtual, because I love learning from, from the folks in this industry and, and, and actually those who, who aren’t in the industry that want to share and have an interest in the work that we’re doing.
Jacob Vallo (42m 53s):
So Collie, I just want to thank you for your time and always enjoy talking with you and appreciate your insight and your wisdom. And yeah, I just want to say, thank you.
Collie Greenwood (43m 3s):
Likewise, Jacob, thank you very much. This has been a great experience for me suffice to say I very much enjoyed myself. Thanks for having me on.
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